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Forgotten Harvest to shift to new operating model with larger $12 million headquarters

Forgotten Harvest has begun construction of a new site that will shift its operating model to provide a more nutritional mix of food for the region’s hungry.

The nonprofit food rescue, which picks up food from restaurants, convention halls and grocery stores that would otherwise go to waste and delivers it to food pantries and food pickup sites, has launched work on a new, 77,000-square-foot headquarters not far from its current home in Oak Park.

Located on Eight Mile Road between Coolidge Highway and Greenfield Road, on the site of the long-demolished Lightguard Armory, the new $12 million building will give Forgotten Harvest the space it needs to consolidate its staff from three locations and to shift from just-in-time distribution of much of the food it rescues to bringing all of it back to its warehouse to be mixed before sending it back out in more balanced fashion.

Forgotten Harvest purchased the 10-acre property from Livonia-based Schostak Bros. & Co earlier this year for $1.2 million, CEO Kirk Mayes said. After delays due to the pandemic, ground clearing on the site began earlier this month. Construction is expected to be completed by spring/summer 2022.

Forgotten Harvest launched the quiet phase of a now $17 million campaign in 2018 to fund capital costs, furnishings and equipment and $1 million fund to help cover facility operation and maintenance costs for the first several years, Mayes said. So far, it’s raised $9.5 million.

“The outcome of this project is not just a building,” Mayes said. “The outcome is a smarter Forgotten Harvest that’s making decisions based off of information we’re getting from our community and processing that into a way we can figure out better ways we can serve the community.

“With help of experts to help us think through this, what we discovered is in order to maximize this opportunity, we need a larger space.”

The nonprofit’s current site on Greenfield Road just south of Nine Mile, purchased late in 2006, is too small to meet social distancing needs for volunteers and to repack and store food, Mayes said. It doesn’t have adequate storage, and with just two loading docks, it can’t accommodate inbound and outbound truck deliveries and pickups.

“We have had to turn away donations; sometimes we just don’t have the space,” Mayes said.

During the early months of the pandemic, Forgotten Harvest temporarily moved into a 100,000-square-foot Royal Oak facility loaned by the owners of Oak Park-based 1-800-Self- It signed a two-year lease for the space over the summer, Mayes said. The site temporarily gives it needed space to accommodate distribution of 1.2 million-1.5 million pounds of food each week (most of it government-funded), up from about 600,000 pounds of food per week before the pandemic.

With the new site, it will be able to bring its 80 full-time employees, part-time staff and volunteers from the Oak Park and Royal Oak sites and a third administrative site in Southfield together. It will also give needed space as it shifts its business model to provide a better mix of food. With the shift, it will bring rescued food back to its facility, sorting and repackaging it with other food rather than moving bulk loads of one type of food or another directly to its partner agencies, Mayes said.

The new building will include warehouse, cold storage and administrative space, 15 loading docks and a truck yard.  Farmington-based GAV & Associates Inc. is the architect on the project, and G and D Investments is the general contractor.  Forgotten Harvest has secured a line of credit with Huntington Bank that will allow it to finance the construction of the project, while it continues to fundraise, Mayes said.  The goal is to pay off the credit free and clear when the campaign is completed, he said.  Forgotten Harvest is operating on an $11.4 million cash budget for fiscal 2021.


Posted By: Crain’s Detroit Business on November 18, 2020.  For more information, please click here to read the source article.

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